Finger Independence (Guitar Lesson)

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Danny Voris

Finger Independence

For lesson five, Danny discusses left hand finger independence. He also discusses hammer-on and pull-off technique.

Taught by Danny Voris in Classical Guitar seriesLength: 17:06Difficulty: 1.0 of 5
Chapter 1: (03:35) Finger Independence Classical guitar music typically involves some sort of melody line played in conjunction with a harmony part. Since two parts are happening simultaneously, the fingers often have to contort into awkward positions. To make wide stretches across the length and width of the fretboard, a high level of finger independence must be developed.

Due to the anatomy of the hand, certain fingers have a tendency to move when another finger moves. For example, the pinky finger tends to move when the third finger is being used. By the same token, the third finger wants to move when the second finger is used. You must work through the exercises presented in this lesson to overcome these natural tendencies.


If you ever experience any pain or discomfort of any sort while practicing any of the exercises presented in this lesson, immediately take a break. To begin with, practice these exercises for roughly ten minutes a day as part of your warm-up routine. As your hands get stronger, and if time permits, gradually add more exercises to your practice routine.

Exercise 1

all finger independence exercises are performed in seventh position. Once you have mastered them in this position, play them in fifth position for an extra challenge.


1. Plant all fingers on the third string in seventh position. Make sure each finger is planted at the appropriate fret.

2. Apply light pressure to the string.

3. While leaving the other fingers planted, the first finger jumps back and forth between notes played on the fifth and second strings. Use the thumb (P) to pluck low notes. Pluck high notes with the index finger (I). This segment repeats twice.

4. Then, the first finger jumps back and forth between the sixth string and the first string. This segment repeats twice.

5. Repeat this exercise with the remaining fingers. Watch as Danny demonstrates the remaining fingers at 02:00 in the lesson video.

If you experience pain at any point while practicing this exercise, immediately stop and take a break. You may not be able to complete the exercise with the third and fourth fingers. Do not force these fingers to perform stretches that they are not yet ready for. With regular practice, you will be able to complete the entire exercise in a matter of weeks.
Chapter 2: (04:53) Reach Development As mentioned in the previous scene, a piece may require a finger to fret a note on a low string while another finger must fret a high note. In addition to improving the independence between each of the individual fingers, you must also increase the flexibility and reach of each finger to perform these types of passages.

Finger Switch Exercise Guidelines

1. Once again, this exercise is played in seventh position. The first finger will play at the 7h fret throughout the exercise. The second finger remains at the eighth fret. The first and second fingers continue to switch from string to string. As the exercise continues, the distance between the first and second fingers gradually increases.

2. Two notes are always played simultaneously. Pluck the lowest note with the thumb. Use the index finger to play the higher of the two notes.

3. Play this exercise with a staccato feel and with a fluid legato feel. Playing the exercise legato will require some extra practice.

4. Keep the left hand as still as possible. Keep the palm parallel to the bottom of the neck at all times. Make all stretches with the fingers, not with the hand.

5. Practice this exercise with fingers 2 and 3 and with fingers 3 and 4.

Note: Tablature and standard notation to this exercise can be found in measures 13-27 of the lesson exercise.
Chapter 3: (06:13) Hammer-On and Pull-Off Technique Hammer-ons and pull-offs are two forms of "slurs" that can be played on the guitar. Slurs are used to create a smooth, legato sound. A slur occurs when multiple notes are sounded and only one note is struck with the right hand. A hammer-on is a "forward" slur. It begins with a lower note and concludes with a higher note. A pull-off is a "reverse" slur. Pull-offs begin with a higher note and conclude with a lower note. Other types of guitar slurs are slides and bends. Using the whammy bar to bend a pitch will also produce a type of slur.

Hammer-on Exercise Guidelines

Note: This exercise is also taught in Matt Brown's first Phase 2 Rock Lesson. Check out this lesson for additional information and practice tips.

1. In order to play a hammer-on, the hammering finger must begin at a distance that is higher than how you normally want to play. Roughly half an inch is necessary to create the snapping movement of the hammer-on.

2. Performing a hammer-on requires a forceful movement with a left-hand finger. The tone of a hammer-on is much clearer and louder when the hammering finger comes down fast and forcefully. If you bring your finger down to slow, the hammer-on will be weak or inaudible.

3. All rules regarding proper left-hand finger placement in relation to the frets become even more crucial when playing hammer-ons. Hammer the finger down right behind the fret. Hammering on top of a fret or too far from it will result in a poor tone.

4. Use the hard calluses on the tips of the fingers when making contact with the strings. This will help generate a louder tone.

5. This exercise features a fretboard pattern that repeats throughout the exercise. Continue the exercise all the way up to the 12th fret. Practice hammer-ons with the following fingering pairs: 1 and 2, 2 and 3, 3 and 4.

6. Pay VERY close attention to the rhythm in which a hammer on is to be played. Many inexperienced guitarists cut the first note (the plucked note) way too short. Consequently, the hammer on note is held for too long. For starters, practice all hammer-ons and pull-offs in an even eighth note rhythm.

Pull-off Exercise Guidelines

This exercise gives you practice performing pull-offs between all finger combinations.

1. The plucked note and the subsequent pull-off must be equal in volume.

2. Pull the finger straight down towards the floor when playing a pull-off. This will create the best tone.

3. Be careful that you do not pull your finger down too far. This may cause one of the adjacent strings to vibrate. Stop the finger performing the pull-off on the string below. This may not be practical when performing rapid pull-offs. However, the pull-off technique should be exaggerated to help you in the early learning stages.

4. Spend extra time practicing the difficult finger combinations. Do not stray away from something just because it seems challenging at first.

5. Practice this exercise on all six strings in a variety of fretboard positions. Danny demonstrates the exercise in fifth position.

6. Play the exercise in time with a metronome. Make sure that both notes under the slur line receive the exact same value.
Chapter 4: (02:23) Improvise in E Major The slur exercise outlined in this scene will increase your technical, musical, and improvisational skills as well as your knowledge of the E major scale. Adding some creativity to technical practice will help you remain engaged for a longer period of time. It will also improve your playing skills quicker than boring, non-musical exercises since multiple skills are utilized.

Practicing the Exercise

The open first and second strings both produce key notes in the key of E major. E is the tonic note and B is dominant in function. If you know the horizontal patterns for E major on these strings, you can create melodies by performing slurs between various fretted notes and the open strings. Simply improvise your own melodies on these two strings using hammer-ons and pull-offs. To add a bass voice to the exercise, periodically pluck the open sixth string to produce a tonic drone note. Watch Danny in the lesson video for some ideas on how to get this process started.

Video Subtitles / Captions

Member Comments about this Lesson

Discussions with our instructors are just one of the many benefits of becoming a member of JamPlay.

tone-88tone-88 replied on December 30th, 2014

Would have been nice to slow down and see more detail on the improv.

Brig07Brig07 replied on October 1st, 2013

I loved it, but I found the exercices on Emajor a bit hard

kervinrkervinr replied on September 6th, 2012

this is not as easy as he makes it look. I have very short fingers and i need to stretch them far.

1998bogdan1998bogdan replied on July 15th, 2011

what kind of guitar are you using

enceladusregisenceladusregis replied on November 18th, 2010

Good lesson. This is great for Independence! Thanks.

paddypaddy replied on February 2nd, 2010

what classical guitar make and model would you recommend for a beginner adult?

J.artmanJ.artman replied on April 2nd, 2009

Fantastic lesson. Keep them coming!

evilhedgehogevilhedgehog replied on March 20th, 2009

Fun fun, haha. Excellent lesson, keep it coming. :)

SylviaSylvia replied on March 19th, 2009

holy smokes! owie! lol

Classical Guitar

Found in our Beginner Lesson Sets

The origins of the classical guitar date back to the fifteenth century. The vihuela, lute, and baroque guitar are the early predecessors of the guitar. With its origins reaching deep into the past, the classical guitar repertoire spans over five hundred years worth of material. Danny Voris explains the techniques necessary to mastering this timeless art form.

Lesson 1

Overview of the Classical Guitar

Danny provides an overview of the topics that will be discussed in this lesson set. He also explains the origin of the classical guitar.

Length: 5:57 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 2

Preparing to Play the Classical Guitar

In this lesson, Danny covers proper posture and how to hold the classical guitar. He also explains how to shape the nails in order to produce the best tone possible.

Length: 19:44 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 3

Installing Nylon Strings

Danny demonstrates how to install nylon strings on a classical guitar.

Length: 12:58 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 4

Left Hand Technique

Danny covers the basics of left hand techniques for classical guitar.

Length: 20:19 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 5

Finger Independence

For lesson five, Danny discusses left hand finger independence. He also discusses hammer-on and pull-off technique.

Length: 17:06 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 6

Right Hand Technique

In lesson 6, Danny discusses and demonstrates right hand technique for the classical style.

Length: 24:26 Difficulty: 1.5 Members Only
Lesson 7


Lesson 7 is all about arpeggios. Danny provides discussion and exercises designed to build your right hand skills.

Length: 8:43 Difficulty: 1.5 FREE
Lesson 8

The Importance of Scales

Lesson 8 covers scale exercises in the classical format. Danny provides a few patterns that focus on finger independence and position shifts.

Length: 6:26 Difficulty: 1.0 Members Only
Lesson 9

Renaissance Period

In lesson 9, Danny begins discussion of the five different musical periods of classical guitar music. He starts with the Renaissance.

Length: 40:19 Difficulty: 2.0 Members Only
Lesson 10

Robert Johnson's Alman

In lesson 10, Danny takes a more in depth look at a Robert Johnson's "Alman." This lesson contains a detailed explanation of fingering.

Length: 27:36 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 11

Behind the Scenes with Danny Voris

Danny Voris discusses the major music periods and the advent of tonality.

Length: 7:19 Difficulty: 0.5 Members Only
Lesson 12

Baroque Period

Danny discusses and demonstrates a piece from the Baroque period.

Length: 22:17 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 13

Classical Period

In lesson 13, Danny discusses the Classical period of music.

Length: 20:53 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 14

Romantic Period

In lesson 14, Danny discusses the Romantic period of music. He demonstrates a famous piece from this period commonly referred to as "Romance."

Length: 21:11 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only
Lesson 15

The 20th Century

In this lesson, Danny discusses the 20th century influence on classical guitar.

Length: 22:43 Difficulty: 2.5 Members Only

About Danny Voris View Full Biography

A unique guitarist in the region, Wright State alumnus Danny Voris, musically fulfills audiences with a mixture of exciting guitar playing and talented compositional skills. After graduating WSU in 1989, Danny obtained a teaching position at Sinclair Community College. In the fall of 2000, Danny obtained a scholarship to the graduate program at The University of Akron. After graduating the University of Akron in 2002 with a Master’s degree in Classical Guitar Performance, Danny returned to Dayton. There he began teaching at Jim McCutcheon Music Studios and at The Miami Valley School in Kettering, Ohio.

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